A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial mischaracterized Common Core education standards as "central planning," claiming that "a bureaucracy far removed from any school district" would now control local education. In fact, the standards were developed by states with input from local schools; moreover, no school is required to adopt them.
Florida Watchdog.org, an offshoot of the Koch brothers-funded Watchdog.org, parroted right-wing media claims that Congress is receiving an "exemption" from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by receiving a "special subsidy" from the government for its health insurance. However, this zombie lie is not based in fact and is due to a Republican effort to politicize the implementation of the law.
Five years after the collapse and bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, media are turning a blind eye to persistent economic inequality and poverty, and whitewashing the effects of austerity on preventing economic growth.
September 15 marked the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose bankruptcy set off a global financial crash and dramatically accelerated a recession that began in the United States in December 2007. For nearly two years, the American and global economies were marked with enormous job loss, a collapse of housing and investment values, and the looming prospect of economic depression. Five years later the economy has yet to fully recover.
In the past five years, in large part thanks to unprecedented government intervention, financial markets have more than recovered from the 2008-2009 collapse. Since bottoming out on March 9, 2009, investment markets are up across-the-board. The Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 15,000 point threshold on May 7 for the first time ever and currently sits near its all-time high set on August 2. The other major indices are doing just as well. The S&P 500 crossed the 1,700 point threshold on August 2, when the NASDAQ also set a new 13-year high.
Corporate profits have ballooned along with the soaring stock market. CNNMoney reported in December 2012 that quarterly corporate profits set a new record, but it also noted that workers' wages had "fallen to their lowest-ever share of GDP." When Business Insider reported on the same phenomenon in April, profitability had continued to rise as wages continued to fall. Wage growth has largely been captured by the highest earners.
The top end of the economy has recovered from the collapse and recession, but other indicators remain stuck. Stagnant and falling wages contribute to growing economic inequality and diminish the purchasing power of the American consumer economy. The Economic Policy Institute detailed the effect that a decade of wage stagnation has had on the shrinking middle class and swollen ranks of working poor.
Unemployment, while falling, remains a drag on economic growth and has remained higher than pre-recession levels thanks largely to policy decisions in Washington.
Economist Jared Bernstein notes that poverty rates have barely fallen since the end of the recession, yet another indication that the growth seen over the past several years is not reaching the broader economy.
The economy is growing, but media have done a poor job acknowledging the causes and symptoms of lingering structural inequality. Five years after the Lehman Brothers collapse, media have been complicit in exacerbating structural inequalities by failing to cover the issues or grant a voice to groups that continued be to economically disadvantaged.
The North Carolina-based Civitas Institute published a piece on its blog attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by criticizing the number of people who will remain uninsured after the law goes into full effect and urging Congress to cut off funding for the law. However, Civitas, which belongs to a right-wing network with ties to the Koch brothers, ignored necessary context in order to further its misleading narrative.
The New Hampshire Union Leader ran a story promoting the conservative organization Americans For Prosperity's (AFP) misinformation campaign against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without mentioning major factual concerns with AFP's campaign.
The September 10 news story highlighted JustExemptMe.com, which is a website run by Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire (AFP-NH) to allow New Hampshire residents to sign a petition asking to be exempted from provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The article pushed the myth that Congress is exempt from the Affordable Care Act while only citing the state director of AFP-NH as a source for the piece:
AFP-NH said the administration has given exemptions to numerous groups, including members of Congress, labor unions and employers in House Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi's congressional district.
"When the unions came to the President to ask for an exemption from ObamaCare, he gave it to them," said Greg Moore, AFP-NH state director.
"When members of Congress said they needed a subsidy, he gave them one. When big insurance companies said they needed relief from a cap in out-of-pocket costs in ObamaCare, the President obliged.
The Union-Leader article is just a reformatted version of a press release issued on September 10 by Americans for Prosperity. Yet by repeating those talking points in its news section, the paper legitimizes the message of an indefensible organization that has a partisan agenda, and aids its campaign to manipulate politicians and media coverage of the ACA.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial dismissing the alleged "fear and disinformation" surrounding hydraulic fracturing to claim it is "not so toxic," but admitted the process is not safe enough for Virginia.
The September 11 editorial attacked opponents of hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking - claiming that they "have waged a campaign of fear and disinformation" about the process, which is "not so toxic as its foes make it out to be."
But the Times-Dispatch quickly pivoted to denounce fracking in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which provides drinking water to millions of people. As the editorial explains, it's still a process "that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery," which is "a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape":
The U.S. Forest Service is completing a 15-year management plan and soon will decide whether to permit fracking in George Washington. While fracking is not so toxic as its foes make it out to be, it remains an industrial process -- one that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery. That is a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape.
Granted, the federal government owns far too much real estate -- particularly out west. Public lands should not be categorically sealed off from private use. The George Washington Natural Forest, however, is not just any old lump of real estate. It is a treasure that merits close guarding.
The Times-Dispatch's NIMBYism is clearly concerning. It is understandable that the editorial board would not want to contaminate the drinking water and decimate the beauty of Virginia's natural landscape, but it is unclear why it is willing to tolerate such damage in another state. The Times-Dispatch's reasoning that public lands should be targeted because "the federal government owns too much real estate - particularly out west" is misleading, as approximately 3,400 wells, or about 90 percent of those drilled on Federal and Indian lands, are already "stimulated using hydraulic fracturing techniques."
New research shows that the gap between the rich and poor in the United States in 2012 rose at the fastest rate since 1928. This revelation comes at a time when television and print media outlets largely underreport economic inequality.
According to research from economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics, and Oxford University, in 2012, incomes for those in the top 1 percent of earners rose by roughly 20 percent. According to the Associated Press, the share of income captured by the wealthiest was the highest since 1928, a year before the onset of the Great Depression .
The remaining 99 percent of earners, meanwhile, saw a 1 percent increase in income.
The research findings reinforce previous warnings from economists that rising income inequality poses a threat to economic well-being.
While economists have repeatedly shown that income inequality is a real, systemic issue in the American economy, media outlets have largely shirked their duty in reporting the problem over recent months.
A recent Media Matters report on economic inequality coverage in local print outlets found that, of articles with substantial mentions of policies and programs that affect low-income individuals, only 19 percent mentioned structural inequality and poverty.
The lack of coverage of inequality in local print media follows a similar pattern shown in nightly cable and broadcast news. Over the second quarter of 2013, only 9.3 percent of news segments on the economy mentioned inequality and the impact of current policies on low-income households
With news that economic inequality is reaching historical highs, media have a responsibility to bring this to light.
Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau took a shortsighted view of Medicaid expansion by only accounting for up-front costs while failing to recognize the long-term savings and benefits that expansion brings to Virginians.
A September 10 post explained that the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission -- the group tasked with determining the fate of expansion in Virginia -- is accepting citizen comments online. The piece highlighted the views of the commission's co-chairman Delegate Steve Landes (R), who is an opponent of expansion, and only noted the costs associated with expansion:
"Obviously, we're hearing from a lot of citizens who are opposed, and I think this will just add to that," said Republican Delegate Steve Landes, the commission's co-chairman who has questioned how Virginia can afford expanding a program it's already spending billions on now.
Every Virginian has a stake in the future of Medicaid, Landes said. If the state chooses to expand Medicaid enrollment, as it can under Obamacare, the number of Virginians on Medicaid would soar from roughly 1 million of the state's 8 million people, to about 1.4 million.
In the end, federal funding and state funding still comes from the same place - taxpayers' pockets.
While Watchdog's opposition to Medicaid expansion centers on the costs the state will incur, the post omits numerous ways in which the state will benefit financially, both directly and indirectly, from expansion.
Expanding Medicaid would cover up to an additional 430,000 Virginians who are currently uninsured for only 5.2 percent more than the state would have to pay without the Affordable Care Act. In addition, as a fact sheet on Medicaid expansion in Michigan explained, expanding Medicaid will give previously uninsured patients "access to primary care, lowering costs and improving overall health."
A Colorado newspaper has repeatedly run an anti-Semitic ad depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, as a puppet-master who controls a state senator the ad's sponsor is seeking to recall from office for supporting stronger gun laws.
The September 8 and 9 editions of the Pueblo Chieftain featured the half-page advertisement. The group responsible for the ad, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, is credited with starting the campaign to recall the ad's target, State Sen. Angela Giron, over her support for legislation that expanded background checks on gun purchases and imposed a 15-round limit on firearm magazine size. Early voting is underway with the election concluding on September 10.
The depiction of a Jewish leader as a puppet-master is widely acknowledged as anti-Semitic imagery because of its relation to conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the political process or global economy.
The ad apparently is a play on the fact that a group backed by Bloomberg has contributed a substantial amount of money in opposition to the recall effort. The recall elections targeting Giron and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) have drawn significant outside spending both for and against the recall, including more than $361,000 spent by the National Rifle Association in favor of the recall.
The Chieftain's decision to allow the publication of Pueblo Freedom and Rights' ad follows a call by progressive groups for a local media outlet to disaffiliate from the Chieftain over its coverage of the recall election.
The Ohio branch of the media watchdog organization Media Trackers pushed for the media to cover at least eight conservative myths about Medicaid that either lack crucial context, have been widely debunked, or originate from conservative think tanks with a history of distorting the truth.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial promoted inaccurate claims regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including an exaggeration of the effects of the ACA on employee benefits, a false claim on rising premium prices, and a warning that Medicaid expansion would shift costs to hospitals, even as the hospital community praised the ACA for being financially beneficial.
Print media regularly overlook issues of structural economic inequality in stories concerning low wages, poverty, or disadvantaged groups at the local level, a lack of coverage that aligns with similar documented trends in national cable news.
A Media Matters analysis of print coverage from 12 major newspapers over the past three months found that economic inequality received inadequate attention. Only 19 percent of print coverage of impoverished and low-income Americans highlighted the widening wealth and income gap in the United States. Of the selected print outlets, The Boston Globe performed the best in its coverage, with 28.6 percent of stories making significant mention of economic inequality. The Denver Post performed the worst, with just 4 percent of stories making significant mention of inequality.
Media coverage of poverty often goes no further than a passive acknowledgement of disadvantaged groups; little attention is paid to the mechanisms that trap Americans in poverty.
Despite the deficiency in media coverage, economists have frequently warned about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The Economic Policy Institute detailed the effect that a decade of wage stagnation has had on the shrinking middle class and swollen ranks of working poor.
The negative relationship between stagnant wages and growing economic inequality is well-established. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has tracked and categorized this relationship for several years. In 2004 and 2007, CBPP economists noted that the share of economic productivity going to wages and income was at record low levels. By 2010, a CBPP analysis of Congressional Budget Office data revealed how decades of wage stagnation and top-heavy tax cuts drove economic inequality to new heights.
According to the CBO, from 1979 to 2007 the top one percent of income earners have seen their after-tax share of total income rise by more than 120 percent, while the bottom 20 percent of earners have seen that share decline by almost 30 percent. From Mother Jones:
This sort of analysis is missing from the vast majority of mainstream newspapers.
A Columbus Dispatch editorial attacked parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by regurgitating popular myths and misconceptions, including the falsehood that many companies are cutting workers' hours due to the employer mandate, that young and healthy Americans are choosing to not pay for health insurance, and that the role of "navigators" is limited to only assisting with enrollment, despite evidence showing none of these claims are based in fact.
Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain failed to note Colorado voters' overwhelming support for the state's new gun background check law and instead provided a misleading generalization that "Colorado voters oppose the state's stricter new gun-control laws."
In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law on March 20. The new laws expand background checks on gun sales, limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and impose a $10 fee on background checks. State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) are facing a September 10 recall election over their support for the new measures.
The Chieftain's claim about the popularity of Colorado's new gun laws in the lead story for August 23 was based on a new Quinnipiac University poll that paradoxically found that the majority of voters oppose "the stricter new gun control laws in Colorado" by a 54 to 40 percent margin, but approve -- to varying degrees -- of the specific pieces of gun violence prevention legislation. The August 22 poll found that voters support requiring a background check on every gun sale by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. Quinnipiac did not ask voters about their opinion on the background check fee.
Unlike other major Colorado newspapers, the Chieftain reported on the general opposition to "the stricter new gun control laws" but failed to acknowledge support for the specific measures.
WatchdogVA, an affiliate of the Koch Brothers funded Franklin Center, promoted unsubstantiated fears in asking legislators to weigh several considerations when determining how to expand Medicaid in Virginia, including fears over the federal government's role and a doctor shortage. The conservative blog also recommended block granting or privatizing the program, both of which would have disastrous consequences on Medicaid.